A Statistical Look At The Flyers’ Playoff Chances

After a furious climb back into playoff contention that saw them pick up points in 12 of their last 13 games, the Flyers sit 4 points behind the Boston Bruins (who have a game in hand) for the last wild card slot in the Eastern Conference, with the Florida Panthers 1 point ahead of the Flyers with a game in hand as well. But how likely is it that the Flyers make up the rest of their deficit and claim a postseason berth? I decided to look at the remaining schedules of all three teams involved in the hunt to determine the likelihood.

I broke down each team’s remaining games in a number of ways. First up is by simple points. I picked three categories: 1-10, 11-20, and 21-30.

Team Games Left vs. top-10 vs. middle-10 vs. bottom-10
Bruins 23 10 5 8
Panthers 23 9 7 7
Flyers 22 7 7 8

A couple things to look at here. When looking at the table, you see that the Flyers have the fewest remaining games against top-10 teams in the standings while also tying with the Bruins for most remaining games against the league’s bottom-feeders. The Flyers’ remaining schedule overall is fairly evenly distributed, while the Bruins have a lot of games left against both the league’s elite teams as well as teams toward the bottom of the standings. The Panthers have a similarly evenly distributed schedule to the Flyers, albeit one that is slightly more top-heavy.

But points aren’t the only way to break down a team’s performance and can in fact be misleading. Case in point–as of now, the Blackhawks are 11th in the NHL standings. With that in mind, I also decided to break up each team’s remaining schedules by the same categories (1-10, 11-20, 21-30), but this time sorted by opposing CF%.

Team Games Left vs. top-10 vs. middle-10 vs. bottom-10
Bruins 23 5 12 6
Panthers 23 10 5 8
Flyers 22 6 11 5

When looking at remaining opponents by this measure, you notice a few changes. Firstly, the Bruins’ schedule gets much easier, as they cut the number of top-10 teams remaining on their schedule by half. The Flyers see an increase in games against teams in the middle of the pack possession-wise, while Florida’s schedule distribution stays mostly the same.

I decided to look at remaining team schedules by GF% as well, in the interest of a holistic review.

Team Games Left vs. top-10 vs. middle-10 vs. bottom-10
Bruins 23 7 9 7
Panthers 23 10 9 4
Flyers 22 6 6 8

When sorting by GF%, a couple things are very apparent. Firstly, the Flyers have both the fewest games remaining vs. top-10 teams and the most games remaining vs. bottom-10 teams. Secondly, Florida’s schedule gets much more difficult–they have the most games remaining vs. the top-10 and fewest games remaining vs. the bottom-10. The Bruins fall in the middle of the pack in both categories.

Finally, I looked at how each team has done so far this year against the teams remaining on their schedule.

Team Games Left Wins Losses OTLs
Bruins 23 17 6 6
Panthers 23 11 9 5
Flyers 22 8 12 0

The Flyers have played most of their divisional games, and so their number of games played so far against their remaining opponents (20) is much lower than Florida (25) and Boston (29). Unfortunately, the Flyers have fared poorly against their remaining opponents, going 8-12-0 for 16 points in 20 games compared to 11-9-5 for 27 points in 25 games by the Panthers and 17-6-6 for 40 points in 29 games for the Bruins.

So who is going to take the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference? Probably the Bruins. Despite their cold spell recently, SportsClubStats.com pegs them with a 69.6% chance to make the postseason as of now, and even if they tread water at 11-10-2 down the stretch their playoff chances will still be above 59%. Their calculations, of course, don’t take the absence of David Krejci into account, but 11-10-2 is not some unreachable hurdle without Krejci. Compare that to the Panthers, who have a 13.2% chance of making the postseason as of now and need to finish the season 14-7-2 to get their playoff odds north of 50%, and the Flyers, who have an 8% chance of making the playoffs right now and need to close the year on a torrid 14-5-3 tear to get their playoff chances above 50%.

Depending on what statistical measure you’re looking at, the Flyers have anywhere from an average to easy schedule the rest of the way. However, the hole they’ve dug themselves so far means they’ll have to play at a consistently high level for the last 23 games of the year to have any shot of overtaking Boston for the East’s final playoff spot. As evidenced by their 8-12 record against these opponents so far this year, the Flyers have struggled to consistently grab points no matter who they’re playing, and they’ll need to do so in 17 of their last 22 games just to get their chances up past 50%.

So, time for the fun part of things: prognostication. Here are the remaining schedules for each team and how I think the rest of the season will shake out for each of the three teams involved in the playoff hunt.

Boston: vs. Canucks, at Devils, vs. Coyotes, vs. Flames, vs. Flyers, vs. Red Wings, at Senators, vs. Lightning, at Penguins, at Capitals, vs. Sabres, at Senators, at Panthers, at Lightning, vs. Ducks, vs. Rangers, at Hurricanes, vs. Panthers, at Red Wings, vs. Maple Leafs, at Capitals, at Panthers, at Lightning (11 home, 12 road)

Florida: at Blackhawks, vs. Blackhawks, vs. Sabres, vs. Lightning, vs. Maple Leafs, vs. Stars, vs. Islanders, vs. Jets, at Hurricanes, at Rangers, vs. Canadiens, vs. Red Wings, vs. Bruins, at Lightning, at Maple Leafs, at Canadiens, at Senators, at Bruins, vs. Hurricanes, vs. Lightning, vs. Canadiens, vs. Bruins, vs. Devils (15 home, 8 road)

Philadelphia: at Hurricanes, at Maple Leafs, vs. Rangers, vs. Flames, vs. Blues, at Bruins, at Devils, vs. Stars, at Blues, vs. Red Wings, at Senators, at Canucks, at Flames, at Oilers, vs. Blackhawks, vs. Sharks, at Penguins, at Hurricanes, vs. Penguins, vs. Islanders, vs. Hurricanes, vs. Senators (11 home, 11 road)

Boston: 11-9-3, 92 points.

Florida: 11-8-4,  90 points.

Philadelphia: 11-9-2, 87 points.

Hopefully I’m wrong, but I can’t see both the Flyers sustaining their current level of play for the final 22 games of the year and the Bruins and Panthers faltering enough to cede the final playoff spot to the Flyers, especially not with the Bruins’ success so far this year against their remaining opponents and the Panthers’ dramatic home-road disparity.

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